Estonian ministry weighing going to court over EU's new mobility package

  • 2020-08-02
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications says it may start a litigation in a bid to reverse the European Union's new mobility package, which will change the working, driving and resting time requirements for drivers, the rules for conducting business as a road haulier and access to the international road haulage market, as well as introduce norms concerning the posting of drivers in international haulage. 

 Estonia and eight other EU member states have repeatedly expressed their objections to the mobility package that will take effect in three weeks, arguing that in its current form the reform runs counter to the principles of the EU's single market and climate goals.

According to Estonia's Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas, serious consideration must be given to going to court with the other member states, spokespeople for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said.

"Despite the efforts by us and eight other countries, the mobility package was adopted in a form which contradicts the principles of Europe's single market and is protectionism in nature. Unfortunately, with this package, it will be more difficult for our road haulage companies to compete in Europe in the future. The adopted package also is incomprehensible considering our climate goals. Poland and several other countries have already earlier promised to go to court, now also we must discuss these options in the government," Aas said.

Where the mobility package published on Friday takes effect on Aug. 21 this year, many of the changes will be implemented in a more distant future. 

As of Aug. 21, the changes to the driving and resting time rules for drivers will take effect. In the future, road haulage companies must ensure that drivers in international haulage can spend periods of rest regularly, at least once every four weeks, either at home or a base of the company in a EU member state. 

Also the prohibition on spending the regular weekly rest period in the cabin will become more specific and an obligation added for haulage companies to pay for the accommodation of the driver. Under special conditions it will be permitted for the driver of a vehicle transported by ferry or train to cut short their weekly rest time.  

The amendments concerning the use of tachograph and its technical development will step into force with transition periods. For instance, the length of the controllable period of driving time and rest period will be extended from 28 days to 56 days from Dec. 31, 2024. Gradual transition to Smart 2 new generation tachographs will take place over a period of five years, which also means mandatory replacement of analogue and Smart 1 type tachographs. The obligation to register the crossing of a national border on the tachograph will take effect one-and-a-half years after the stepping into force of the mobility package.

Eighteen months after the mobility package's stepping into force, new requirements concerning the posting of drivers will start to apply, including the requirement that the remuneration for work must be paid in the country where the driver is posted. The new norms concerning posting will apply to both cabotage operations and international haulage, with the exception of transit operations and bilateral haulage. Including to bilateral haulage that involves two additional loadings or unloadings in countries along the route. 

After the same transition period, several new requirements will start to apply also to hauliers, who must make sure that vehicles used in international haulage return to their home country at least every eight weeks.

"The requirement to return to the country of incorporation every eight weeks would mean for Estonian hauliers potentially six unloaded returns to Estonia per year, which in addition to greater impact on the environment will bring with it higher haulage prices and general inefficiency of logistics, which in its turn will be reflected in higher prices for services and goods. In substance, this is a geographical restriction on the provision on transport services; we consider it discriminatory towards business operators in the peripheral areas of the European Union," Aas said.

Where Estonia and several other countries situated in the peripheral areas of the European Union were against the introduction of said requirement, it was adopted in the European Parliament with a big majority of votes.

Eighteen months after the stepping into force of the amendments, also the rules for the performance of cabotage operations will become stricter. To the valid principal rule concerning cabotage operations, according to which one can make three cabotage operations during a period of seven days in the destination country after an international haulage operation, a four-day prohibition for the operator to carry out cabotage operations in the destination country will be added.

Twenty-one months after the mobility package's stepping into force, the requirements concerning operation as a road haulier will be extended also to motor vehicles and combinations of vehicles with a permitted total laden mass of 3.5 tons that are used in international road haulage. In addition, said vehicles must be equipped with Smart 2 tachographs as of July 1, 2026.